5 Things You Must Experience on NC’s Crystal Coast

May 18, 2015 Leigh Powell Hines

Time to visit North Carolina

#outaboutNC

North Carolina’s Carteret County encompasses 85 miles of coastline from Emerald Isle to Harker’s Island. This area is often referred to as  North Carolina’s southern outer banks by those who live outside of North Carolina, but locals call it the “Crystal Coast”. The water is crystal blue, the sunsets and sunrises are amazing, and it has just enough attractions and history to keep the kids entertained, too.  Let’s face it. The ocean will only keep those kids occupied for so long.  You need a family destination that offers a little more than the sun and sand, and the Crystal Coast delivers for a vacation.

Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks

Cape Lookout Lighthouse, a national state park

Take Island Express Ferry service either from Harker’s Island or Beaufort, N.C to Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks. Cape Lookout is a national state park, and is home to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarter’s Museum. Read more about this outing the HinesSightBlog. You can spend the day on this natural island, but you must pack your own food and drinks. Primitive camping is also allowed. On the way to Cape Lookout, you will stop by Shackleford Banks, and get a glimpse of the wild ponies. More than 100 wild ponies live on the island. It is believed that the ponies date back to Spanish Galleon shipwrecks off the Atlantic Coast.  Tours vary by departure location. There is also a Sunset Ferry cruise which departs a few days a week from Harker’s Island.

Fort Macon State Park

historic civil war fort in N.C.

Fort Macon offers public access to the surf, sun and sand of the Crystal Coast, and it is also a historic landmark. Kids will love exploring this civil war fort. The fort showcases uniforms and weapons of four wars (War of 1812, War Between the States, Spanish-American war, World War II). Occasionally, reenactors are on site for educational purposes.  Admission is free.  Visiting the fort when it first opens at 9 a.m. will be the coolest time to visit.  Some of the exhibits are air-conditioned, and there are lots of steps.

NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

alligator at NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

From lakes and streams to the ocean floor, thousands of aquatic animals are for your family to explore on the Crystal Coast. The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is a fun-filled beach activity for all families visiting this area. Throughout the day, there are a variety of live exhibits, including a sunken submarine with 400-pound sharks lurking in the depths . I dare you not to think of the “Jaws” theme when those sharks swim by you.  The Aquarium offers programs, tours, and outreach efforts to help bring your experience to life. The TREE-mendous playground is new this year to the aquarium, and it features a long swinging bridge, a treehouse lookout platform, a climbing net, an open slide, an enclosed spiral slide, and a ton of other fun apparatus to inspire physical activity and creative thinking. Plan to spend several hours at the aquarium. Children 2 and under are free. Tickets are affordable, and provide hours are entertainment for the entire family.  Summer, of course, is the museum’s busiest time. Mid-day is also very, very busy. The last two hours before closing at 5 p.m. is when you find the least amount of crowds.  There is a small snack-bar on site.

Kid fun at NC Aquarium

Stroll Historic Beaufort’s Waterfront

waterfront town, boating

Beaufort is North Carolina’s third oldest town, and was labeled as the “Coolest small town in America” in 2012 by Budget Travel.  With gourmet dining, quaint coffee shops, historic homes, and upscale shopping, Beaufort is a delight to stroll. History buffs may want to take the Historic Double-Decker Bus Tour around town. This 45-minute ride  on a 1967 London Bus will give you insights on Blackbeard, the grave with toys on it in the Old Burying Ground cemetery, and the scoop on a famous female spy.  Kids will love it, especially if they get to ride up top. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Wait for a Table at Amos Mosquito’s in Atlantic Beach

Tableside S'mores at Amos  Mosquito's at Atlantic Beach

Yeah, I  like to make reservations when I dine out, but sometimes waiting for a table at a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations is worth your wait. That’s the case with Amos Mosquito’s in Atlantic Beach. This cozy, eclectic cafe with swampy-decor theme serves up great fare daily during the summer.  Fresh seafood is the star here, but the chef rolls up sushi on Thursday. This is the type of place where you grab a cocktail and just get on beach-time. The kids will absolutely love the tableside s’mores dessert.  The key-lime pie is pretty tasty, too.

If traveling in North Carolina, use the hashtag #outaboutnc and follow @OutaboutNC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

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Leigh Powell Hines

Leigh Powell Hines, a former TV Journalist/Communications Executive, combined motherhood and her journalism experience and started The Hines-Sight Blog to inspire parents to pack their bags for family travels in and around North Carolina, where she resides. Leigh knows the best in family travel, but as a parent in her mid-forties, she seeks out restaurants and hotels that adults can enjoy, too. Luxury hotels are Leigh’s passion, and she is ready to travel the world, one luxury hotel at a time. Connect with Leigh on Twitter @Hinessightblog, Facebook and check out Hines-Sight Blog on Pinterest.

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